The GEO Human Planet Initiative uses EO data to assess Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 9.1.1, known as the Rural Access Index (RAI), which measures the proportion of a country’s rural population that lives within 2 kilometers walking distance of an all-season road.

The RAI is the most widely accepted metric for assessing rural population access to transport consistently across countries and time. It is based on three data sets: where people live, the road network, and road quality. GEO is working to help countries to compute SDG 9.1.1 to support local decisions and to report to the UN.

As a complement to CIESIN's work, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), working with Esri and National Geographic, has established “SDGs Today: The Global Hub for Real-Time SDG Data” in order to make quality and timely data for the SDGs more accessible.

Both Earth Observations and citizen science approaches can be harnessed to improve the timeliness and quality of this indicator. The partners developed an Esri Story Map on Rural Access to Roads, released as part of the SDGs Today Hub in July 2020. This work is done with partners in Nigeria, Colombia, and Spain to illustrate some of the key issues surrounding selection of different data sets, computation of RAI using different assumptions, and estimation of the RAI under different conditions.

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